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3 lessons from slack-key guitarists

Saturday, February 04, 2017

My wife and I just returned from a two-week vacation in Maui, our first visit to that nostalgic island. While there we attended a slack-key guitar concert, coordinated by Grammy-award winning artist, George Kahumoku, Jr. with guitarists Peter DeAquino and Kawika Kahiapo.

We enjoyed classical Hawaiian music but also heard historical details of the music and culture of the islands. As the artists told their personal stories and related them to the land, sea and winds of the islands, three key points stood out as principles for success in just about anything, including business.

1. It's in the blood.

It became clear while listening to George that he credited his God-given abilities in music to how God had wired him as with so many of his colleagues. It seemed that his mind and time constantly gravitated to the rhythms of the forefathers.

That got me thinking about business and especially entrepreneurs. It is almost impossible to be successful if it is not “in the blood”. God has wired people to be successful in business, whether as an entrepreneur, a management type or as a financial expert. As IBEC seeks to find clients who start and operate Kingdom businesses, it is important to find people who wake up and think of business all day long – because that is how they are wired. It is in the blood. It is God-given.

2. Mentoring is important.

Peter tells the story of how his family and neighbors would sing for hours in the evenings and on weekends. As a 5-year-old he was always excluded but he continued to hang around, asking questions and finding a spare guitar or ukulele, sometimes when others had gone to sleep. He started to learn and play by listening and seeking help from those more accomplished.

Mentoring is important in business. I have highlighted in other blogs the fact that no entrepreneur ever reaches success alone. It takes others who coach, provide mentoring and expertise which she or he does not have. Just as a world-class guitarist is mentored by the masters, so should everyone seeking to reach success in Kingdom business-building be coached and mentored.

3. Be a life-long learner.

Kawika is incredibly accomplished in his musical skill – both as a writer and musician. But repeatedly he referred to learning new chords, melodies, stories to write, and rhythm variations. As a musician he will be a learner until he dies.

So too in business – we can never afford to stop learning. A recent blog reflects on the importance of life-long learning:

To resolve or not to resolve - that is the question!

It was there that I quoted Wayne Gretzky, the best hockey player to ever play the game, "... you never learn enough about the game both on and off the ice, and from the guys who have been through it."

One more blog on life-long learning:

A tale of three businesses: the importance of life-long learning

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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7 steps to situational awareness

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process and understand critical pieces of information about what is happening with regard to the critical ‘mission’.

Recent official reports of the cause of several aviation disasters have focused on ‘situational awareness’. In short, it means being aware of what is going on around you.

For example, this report surfaced in mid-December 2016:

A service inquiry has found that a loss of crew situational awareness was the most significant contributory cause of the crash of a Royal Air Force (RAF) Westland/Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 medium transport helicopter in Afghanistan in October 2015, with the loss of five of the nine personnel on board.

The report by the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA) into the loss of Puma XW229 over Kabul, released on 15 December, found that the pilots and rear crewman had become fixated on ground features as they were coming into land, after having lost visual contact with the lead Puma in the formation. In doing so they failed to observe an aerostat, the tether of which the helicopter subsequently struck.1

In a similar manner a La Mia air charter carrying the Brazilian Chapecoense soccer club going to the biggest game in their history crashed near Medellin, Colombia. The main reason, running out of fuel, indicated a clear failure to maintain situational awareness. 71 people died.

Starting and developing a Kingdom business in a high risk country is a tough thing to do. It is high risk. It is not like business start-ups in the Western world. One key to success is being situationally aware. It is akin to understanding the risks and taking the appropriate mitigation steps.

7 steps to situational awareness in international Kingdom business development

Here are seven key factors in maintaining a situational awareness which I have used over the years in the supervision and coaching of foreigners in complex overseas work.
  1. Understand the risks. I recommend a professional quality risk assessment so as to understand the risks of doing business in the region. There are several models available which can be self-administered, but it is preferable to retain a facilitator at least for the first go round.2 It is important to clearly list the primary risks, determine the probability (probability factor) of an event happening and the impact (crisis impact value) if the event occurs.

  2. Make a plan. The final outcome of a risk assessment is to develop a contingency plan to mitigate the probability and the impact. For example, after a visit from some consultants, a for-profit English school in China saw the shifting demographic in the community, and then made a plan to re-focus, adjust marketing strategy, and even modify their financial projections.

  3. Know your community. I believe it is mandatory to develop strong positive relationships with the neighbors and with local officials. There is no substitute for having friends who look out for you as they will usually understand the nuances of culture better than foreigners. One business owner in Asia took great pains to keep the city officials informed of his business. It was not long before he realized that he had “friends in high places” who advocated for him and even boasted to mayors of other cities of what he was doing to address social issues through his business.

  4. Be alert to changing conditions. All business leaders should listen to the news media and other sources of information. They need to know where to get information on constantly changing laws and practices. They should pay attention to political developments that may affect the business, their markets, personal visas, tax issues etc. A change in government in one large Asian country resulted in pressure on foreign-owned businesses. Advance knowledge of such helped the business owner adapt to changing conditions.3

  5. Be a continual learner of culture. While learning the language is imperative, it is just one component of a culture. All of us who have lived many years abroad agree that there is always something new to learn – not just manners and actions but thinking patterns and signals to watch. For example, most of the world’s population lives in a relationship-based culture, unlike rule-based cultures in the west. It can come as quite a shock to realize that sometimes “no” means “yes” and “yes” means “no”. Learning to deal with such ambiguities is a learned skill. Listen! Listen! Listen!

  6. Keep focused on the mission of the business. Just as in the helicopter disaster cited above, it can be catastrophic to take your eyes off the goal. One of our clients in a North African country had a great business plan and a wonderful expert consultant. However, one of the partners began to lose focus and the business began to drift. Soon the other partner found it difficult to continue alone, and the business was sold.

  7. Have a mentor or coach. Most entrepreneurs recognize that it takes a team to grow the business, and it is a help to be accountable to someone. Good situational awareness comes from a variety of sources, and every business needs coaches and mentors who have faced similar issues earlier in their career. One tour business in Asia invited a team of seven to take a beta-tour for 10 days. When we met in a hotel on the last day and gave them more than 100 comments and suggestions, we thought we would be considered ‘persona non grata’ with them – but they thanked us and we saw the company grow as they responded to many of our suggestions.
No matter where one is in the world, to be situationally aware is mandatory. Certainly Kingdom businesses in foreign countries need to consider the factors listed here and others to really know what is going on around them.

1 Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, December 16, 2016
2 Crisis Consulting International (www.cricon.org) and Morton Security (www.mortonsecure.com) provide good resources and training.
3 Proverbs 27:23

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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BAM preparation programs

Saturday, January 21, 2017

From time to time I am asked an important question. “I am interested in serving in a Kingdom business overseas, where can I go to prepare myself?”

Some of the suggestions below are for those who are entrepreneurs, some are for others with a robust business background while others will be helpful to those with minimalist training and experience. These are some that I am familiar with; I am sure there are others; they are in no particular order.
  • Agora Enterprises - Global Entrepreneur Training: This Global Entrepreneurship Training (GET) includes a weekend boot camp and on-line training for serious entrepreneurs.

  • BAM Course: Mark and Jo Plummer of The BAM (Business As Mission) Resource Team have led this program for many years which includes course work and internships; located in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

  • Regent University’s Center for Entrepreneurship The Regent University Center for Entrepreneurship (RCE) is multi-faceted and led by John Mulford. Its focus is on East Africa.

  • Third Path: Mike Baer and Elijah Elkins have designed a 12-month on-line program which builds on the many years of experience of Mike and Elijah in the BAM world.

  • The Biblical Entrepreneurship Certificate Course: This comprehensive program led by Patrice Tsague of the Nehemiah Project provides a certificate in business training and discipleship; open to owners, entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs.

  • Nexus B4T Student Opportunities: Nexus, affiliated with the OPEN Network offers some internships for business students who want to experience Business for Transformation (B4T) first hand in the 10/40 window.

  • The Chalmers Center: The Chalmers Center in Chattanooga has been a quality micro-enterprise program for many years.

  • Living and Learning: Steve Rundle, professor, author and researcher at Biola University runs this quality program.

  • Acton University: Acton University in Michigan has many robust academic and experiential study modules which focus on building a solid business with biblical roots.

  • Global Leadership University: Bob Goldman leads an MBA program for business students who envision starting kingdom businesses abroad.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Keep the big picture in mind

Sunday, January 15, 2017

IBEC board member, Dave Kier is the owner of a sizable feed company in Iowa. He writes blogs like this for his employees five days a week.  He is a wonderful example of a Kingdom business owner that keeps the Quadruple Bottom Line front and center.

This writing of a few weeks ago reminds us of the importance of keeping the big picture in mind, just as God does and just as wise business owners do.

“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” II Corinthians 9:10 NASB®

It seems to me that a by-product of this technological era is going to be too many “taskers”. You know what a “tasker” is don’t you? It’s the person who doesn’t see nor look beyond the task at hand. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, assembly line production began where a person was hired and taught to add one part to whatever was being made. Then Deming, Drucker, Goldratt and other teachers began teaching not only how to improve efficiency but in so doing, caused management to include the workers in thinking of the entire system.  If we aren’t careful, the computer era will put us back in the box causing us to be assembly line thinkers not system thinkers. If we aren’t wise, the technological box could be deceptively stifling.

In our company, we fight the “getting feed out the door” syndrome where the person buying the ingredients thinks only of keeping inventory filled and those in maintenance think only of making a particular repair and the one in the mill thinks only of getting the feed made and the person in the truck thinks only of delivering feed and the one in the office thinks only of paying the bills and billing the customer and so on.  

All are very important tasks but we must pause to understand we are blending nutrients to make a diet that is vital to not only sustain the animal but to allow it to grow as efficiently and profitably as possible for the customer.  Every semi-truck that pulls out of the yard is filled with amino acids, vitamins, minerals, calories, and so on. It’s not just feed, it’s an important component of the human food chain and our components help feed the world.  We are part of a system and the better we understand the food system from beginning to end, the better cog in the wheel of life we are.

God is purposeful because His entire spoken word as written for us reveals a God who was and is intent on fulfilling His purposes are grand and God is a very big picture thinker. All of scripture reveals a God who not only created with a purpose, but directs the affairs of man with a purpose and we are a very important part of His purpose. Jesus left the splendor of Heaven to live, die and rise from the tomb for a purpose – that we may have eternal life bringing glory to God as you live on this earth. You and I are part of God’s great plan because He made you and I for a purpose and He does so because He loves us.

“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.”  W.E. Deming

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Who we are is why we win

Sunday, January 08, 2017

As I write this the University of Washington Husky football team is preparing to play the best college football team in the nation, Alabama's Crimson Tide, on New Year&'s eve. It is a daunting challenge.

But the Huskies earned it, finishing #4 in the college voting and earning a playoff spot along with Alabama, Ohio and Clemson. My home is two miles north of Husky Stadium and the pride and joy in Seattle not go unnoticed.

I recently looked at a selected number of flags outside of Husky Stadium, the home of the Huskies. One stated, “Who we are is why we win”. I got to thinking about that and the principle that it represents.

Husky teams have not always been winners, and coach Chris Petersen has only been in town for four years; and of course there are winning teams which are not character-driven. But coach Petersen set a standard early in his tenure - it is all about character!

“Seventy-five percent of the time he’s talking to the team, it’s about your character. What type of person you should be, you want to be, and just doing the right thing all times,” linebacker Keishawn Bierria said recently. “Life outside football. That’s really what he talks about.”

And the key has partially to do with recruiting character. Petersen is well known for his “our kind of guy” talk about the guidelines he values for his players. Quarterback Jake Browning is one of those players - #4 in the nation for passing efficiency and holder of several Pac-12 records as a sophomore. “It is about having character”, says Petersen when talking about well-rounded young men with character both on and off the field.

“What we are is more important than what we do,” stated Hudson Taylor who lived in China for 51 years. The principle has been stated in other ways as well. John Maxwell lists character as the first chapter in his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, indicating that we need to focus on being bigger on the inside (character) than we are on the outside (influence or results).

Kingdom character

Kingdom business people need to remember that there is no point in winning at business if we are losing at life. Character may come as obvious for some, but it is not as easy as it seems. “Who we are…” is about: always as easy as it seems. “Who we are…” is about:
  • Keeping a passion for Jesus in all things

  • Giving fair quality time to our spouse and our family

  • Maintaining moral clarity and standards which are above reproach

  • Keeping to ethical standards which honor the scriptures, the host country and our own

  • Being accountable to someone – always!

  • Searching the scriptures as a standard for decision-making and life conduct

  • Setting a standard of life-long learning

  • Keeping a balance between our work and our inner souls as measured by objective criteria

It is our character (i.e. inner self) which fuels our ultimate success when considering what we hope to accomplish in our business and what eternity will hold. Development of our character in the long run is mostly done alone and behind the scenes, but it will yield the highest return.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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To resolve or not to resolve - that is the question!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A University of Scranton study suggests that 25% of New Year's Resolution goals go by the wayside in the first week of the year and only 48% of people are sticking to them six months later. Only 8% actually achieve the goals during that year.

I think that the New Year's resolutions tradition as we now think of it is pretty much a farce with a gigantic disconnect from reality. Not that goals are not important - they certainly are - but the hype at Years' end is probably more highly correlated with too much egg nog than it is with realistic accomplishments.

So when it comes to such a high and holy calling as building a Kingdom business, let's forget about New Years' resolutions and instead build into our everyday lives a mantra of 'lifelong learning'.

The term 'lifelong learning' is commonly used in adult education terminology and generally refers to and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. Terms that are somewhat synonymous might be - workplace learning, adult education, continuing education, professional development, and informal education. These all reflect a desire to continue to grow and learn throughout life.

IBEC leadership takes three days in late summer each year to reflect on the recent months and set goals for the future.This avoids the mania of late December and builds an ethos of resolve to be learning continuously. We set goals for donor development, an increase in of clients, increased fee revenue, an increasing number of coaches and consultants. Those specific target numbers reflect an ethos of growth which is more than numbers - they relate directly to life and community transformation.

Rather than focus on specific resolutions, here are three things to help you, your or your business leadership take steps toward becoming a lifelong learner in 2017.*

Becoming a lifelong learner in 2017

  1. Contribute something consistently. This would include things like writing a devotional thought for your employees regularly (like my friend Dave); have regular team meetings with a learning function for each (like my friend Bob in China); use social media to educate, share truths or discuss issues (as BAM leader Sergio does in Brazil).
  2. Collect resources. Be a reader and collect resources which become important resources for years to come. There was a time that I supervised over 100 employees in Brazil. Whenever I would visit Dave, one of his first questions was, "Larry, what good book have you been reading lately?" Those books I have read stay with me. I often refer to management books by Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Guy Kawasaki, John Kotter and others.
  3. Coach others and serve as a consultant. I learned long ago in my years as a school teacher that teachers often learn more than the students. To teach is to be motivated to learn and master something so it can be taught to others and in mentoring others. Each business owner, no matter how small the business, should look for opportunities to teach and coach. IBEC also provides opportunities to do just that as a consultant, coach or Subject Matter Expert.
My youngest son took me to a hockey game recently as my birthday present. We got to talking about hockey in general and my playing years in Alberta, Canada. I recalled my hero in those years, Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. Until Wayne Gretzky came along, Gordie was considered the best. Wayne reflected once on some advice that Howe (who died in 2016) gave him. He said that he learned something about the game every day. Gretzky then concluded, "...so you never learn enough about the game both on and off the ice, and from the guys who have been through it."

For all of us in business, let's be lifelong learners - from God; from others; and from life around us.

* Adapted from Three Steps to Becoming a Lifelong Learner (8/13/2013), ColdCaseChristianity.com

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Business is a gift

Saturday, December 24, 2016

This month of December is a month for giving. We give gifts to each other; we reflect on the gift of Jesus to humanity; and we think about year-end giving to various charities.

In mid-December Patrice Tsague, CEO of the Nehemiah Project proposed that business is a gift and he stated twenty reasons. If you agree, we suggest giving to help people start and grow a Kingdom business, thus creating jobs in the name of Jesus. IBEC helps do just that, as does Mission ONE, United World Mission, Child Voice and Business As Mission, to name a few IBEC partners.

Here are 20 reasons that business is a gift:

  1. Business brings hope
  2. Business reduces crime
  3. Business reduces poverty
  4. Business reduces the threat of terrorism
  5. Business creates income
  6. Business reduces dependency
  7. Business minimizes the threat of war
  8. Business builds community
  9. Business creates wealth
  10. Business helps families
  11. Business solves problems
  12. Business creates jobs
  13. Business helps communities and churches
  14. Business advances the Gospel and funds the great commission
  15. Business can be passed on from generation to generation
  16. Business helps turn a receiver into a giver
  17. Business turns a consumer into a producer
  18. Business pays taxes
  19. Business brings dignity
  20. Business brings innovation
If you would like to support some of IBEC's partners in cultivating Kingdom-building businesses, you can find more information about their projects and ways you can donate on their websites:
Blessings to one and all as we begin 2017 and thank you for your prayer and financial support of IBEC.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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"It's Christmas Time in the City" ... and ...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Can you hear the tune with this line from the famous, “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby? Yes, it is Christmas time again – in the city – and in the country – and in most places in the Western world.

But most of the world’s population does not live in the Western world – they live in the Global South and Global East; they live in the Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu world. I was reminded of this by my daughter who works as an HR Director in Cambodia where there is no celebration of Christmas. Jesus is a little or unknown historical character; not the incarnation of God, born of a virgin in Bethlehem.

But as I look around my own country, I wonder if most North Americans really know the meaning of Christmas. In my lifetime, Christmas decorations, cards and lightings have changed from nativity scenes and wise men to snowmen, Santas, jingle bells, reindeer and high-end electronic gifts.

Christmas is an established day to commemorate the birth of Jesus. The person of Jesus is the important one. This is the divine Jesus - made incarnate in the everyday world – not in the synagogue or church or in some private event. He was born into the marketplace of sheep herders and grew up as a carpenter’s son and learned the trade himself. The marketplace was his world.

As a twenty-something adult I can imagine him creating furniture for families in need; I can imagine him hanging doors and windows in new adobe homes; I see him fulfilling a contract to make new wooden benches for the synagogue. He negotiated prices and kept records for the Roman tax collectors. This “creator God” was then on earth, a creator in the market place – of wood products, of jobs, of tax revenue.

Later on when he entered the teaching world, he kept connected to the world of fishermen, tax collectors, farmers and ranchers, military officers. He was in touch with people and their needs and helped meet those needs.

One of the amazing stories of Jesus was the story of how he provided bread to meet the hunger needs of thousands of people1. He was good at meeting the needs of the sick, hungry, hurting, fearful and destitute. He knew how to meet people in the moment of need.

But he did not stop there. He offered inner satisfaction; inner bread; eternal life!

That is why IBEC celebrates multiple bottom lines in our business coaching. We start with a basic need – the need for satisfying work just like Jesus who excelled as the creator carpenter. Our business people strive to be excellent creator business and job creators. But we do not stop there; we offer transformation through an understanding of who Jesus is the God who gives life NOW and for all ETERNITY.

We will not give up in our task of bringing such LIFE to the rest of the world – the world which does not know the basic truths of God and his Son, Jesus that we celebrate this month. We do that in Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America. We do it for the glory of God!

1 Read John 6 to understand the real Jesus of Christmas birth.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Lessons to be learned from Howard Schultz and Starbucks

Sunday, December 11, 2016
This week I went Christmas shopping at Pike Place Market on Seattle’s waterfront. I stopped at the original Starbucks ® store to listen to a dressed-up Santa singing Christmas carols (note the original logo on this storefront which dates back to 1971).

As I stopped to listen, the old Santa was singing “Joy to the World”. I thought how ironic and interesting! Surely, the Starbucks experience brings plenty of joy to millions of people, but real JOY comes from Jesus, the God of the universe being born incarnate among men in this world.  Spiritual rebirth is a key part of what IBEC is all about – spiritual transformation as people begin to follow Jesus.

I got to thinking about how this amazing entrepreneur, Howard Schultz, grew this simple “hole in the wall” storefront to a Fortune 500 company (# 146 in 2016) and 25,000 stores worldwide. The city of Seattle itself has 142 outlets. After reading through a brief history of the company, I selected some of the factors which account for the success of Howard Schultz and Starbucks.

Spirit of experimentation. From the beginning Mr. Schultz was willing to try new ideas. After purchasing the company from his boss, he began to sell coffee to fine restaurants and espresso bars. He opened up stores with a drive-through and experimented with the Frappuccino. He was not averse to taking risks.

Attitude of being a learner. Mr. Schultz always wanted to learn. He traveled to Italy in 1983 where he saw ideas for a potential coffee house culture in the United States. He knew there was always more to learn and so he observed, studied and applied – starting in Seattle.

The importance of advocates. He convinced the founders of Starbucks to test out the coffee house concept and then found investors so he could test out his ideas. He knew that no entrepreneur can do it alone – entrepreneurs need others; they need a team.

Care for employees. Early on Mr. Schultz offered full benefits to employees and in 1991 he offered stock options, the first privately owned US company to offer this. Starbucks is known today as a pleasant place to work where employees are treated right.

Keep up with the changing times. Starbucks is known for being relevant to the needs and challenges of society. The company opened LEED certified stores (1995), established a foundation (1997), served underserved neighborhoods in a joint-venture partnership with Magic Johnson (1998), began promoting sustainable coffee growing practices (1999), started to serve Fair Trade coffee in North America (2000), developed ethical coffee sourcing guidelines (2001), eliminated all artificial fats (2007), provided digital offerings (2010) and an iPhone order app (2014), among other similar decisions.

A mission statement. Mission statements are only useful when they guide behavior and can be used to measure success. Starbucks’ statement does just that, “…To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Culture is important. The culture of the store is innovative and representative of a place which attracts customers. Employees are well-trained in customer service and courtesy and speed have become a mark of the Starbucks experience. In the words of Peter Drucker when describing entrepreneurship, “…applying management concepts and management techniques (asking what is of ‘value’ to the customer?), standardizing the ‘product’, designing process and tools, and by basing training on the analysis of the work to be done and then setting the standards it required.” Howard Schultz provided a distinct culture which took an old product and created a new market and a new customer.

Collaboration and partnership. Starbucks has grown and continues to set the standard in the coffee marketplace with interesting partnerships such as with Apple – selling music as part of the experience; with Kraft Foods – to see Starbucks products; with Arizona State University – for a business degree; and with PepsiCo in Latin America. Mr. Schultz knew that partnerships are advantageous to business.

While one might not agree with all the decisions of Mr. Schultz and the Starbucks corporation, certainly these few items are some which can be applied. We can learn from an entrepreneur of our day.

But let’s not forget the Santa singing in front of the store during this Christmas season. Starbucks is profitable and sustainable, is a master job-creator; and Starbucks is a good steward of the earth’s resources, but they may lack the fourth important item in the Quadruple Bottom Line: spiritual capital which comes from following the Creator-God: Jesus.” Let’s remember that and focus on the real “Joy to the World” this season. “Let every heart prepare him room.” 3

1 Drucker, Peter. Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Harper and Row, 1985

2 Galatians 4:4, 5

3 A line from the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1791

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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An immigrant alien reflects on governments

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I have lived outside my country of citizenship for most all of my adult life. I have been an alien; an immigrant! Nearly thirty of those years have been in the United States, where I now work, pay taxes and live peaceably with my American wife trying to serve the spiritually unreached and economically disadvantaged of the world. I have tried to remain low-key in political conversations this year but I have a profound love for this grand “American experiment” in democracy.

The Founding Fathers established some principles in the preamble of the Constitution and while these architects of the democracy were not all Christians, the principles are very biblical in their nature. Since man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) ethics is rooted in the character of God (holiness – Hebrews 12:14; justice – Deuteronomy 16:20; and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).

However, sometimes it is considered “cool” to complain about America as if the country were “going down the tubes” and losing what it has gained in its more than 200 years. While that may be valid for some pundits, as I travel the world I remain immensely grateful for the founding principles which still underlie this country. Take a look at them in relation to many other places:

To establish justice and fairness for all residents. Many other countries discriminate against Christians and against business development. Such injustices are biased against Christian people such as what happened to small business owner Rob, who was told to get off his leased land where he was creating jobs for 30 people, building boats in Indonesia. Another case is Jeff who returned from Nepal last week. The tariff on raw materials needed for his small BAM startup employing women of the street was assessed a 500% duty which drove down margins to intolerable levels. So much for justice in some places.

To ensure domestic tranquility. A team of Kingdom engineers and business people had government contracts to help build an alternative energy industry in one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. One of them was targeted by extremists and shot dead in his vehicle. The turmoil in this country would make a night in the most restless city in America seem like a Sunday picnic. So much for domestic tranquility in this and many other similar countries.

To provide for a common defense. The defense system in the US is based on a democratic government model with the elected President as Commander in Chief. This month we have another clear example of “peaceful transition of power”, something modeled in the transition from George Washington to John Adams. All of this is defensible with a military system united with agreed-upon commonalities. No one need wonder what comes next and how we can defend ourselves in case of crisis; unlike small former Soviet republics like Azerbaijan, where we have served kingdom businesses.

To promote the general welfare. IBEC helped a project in Haiti which was attempting to start small businesses for the common good of its citizens. Before we started to interview and listen to the people, we heard story after story of foreign aid monies being siphoned off to the small number of bureaucrats who typically buried money in foreign banks. So much for the general welfare in a country like this seriously victimized by corruption and unethical behaviors.

To secure the blessings of liberty. One of our clients was forced out of his Asian country because of government refusal to grant a visa to their fourth child. It seems liberty was a blessing for a few but not all. In another country in the Balkans, the local government broke contract for our clients’ agricultural product because it was no longer convenient for them. No such thing where “every man does that which is right in his own eyes.” 1 Freedom and liberty seems rather unique to Western democracies and particularly the United States.

To form a more perfect national unity. It is commonly accepted in America that the role of government includes restraining evil and providing safety with a consistent rule of law. A rich history in the laws of Moses and constructs from the likes of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, among others, provides for a national unity. Even a fairly decent country like Thailand where we do some BAM consulting, is subject to military coups on a regular basis and has had 17 constitutions. Not really a “more perfect national unity.”

Harvard professor Clay Christensen had a very interesting encounter with a Marxist student on this subject. The two minutes to hear the story will be worth your time:

1 Judges 21:25

2 YouTube: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=YintXYDPw44

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission